Friday, May 29, 2009

The Second Half

So tomorrow is Brooklyn.
My second half marathon.

Yikes! I have been unusually calm about this one.
But nerves have begun to sneak up on me.

I did a 10 mile run, a 9 mile run and a 7 mile run, as well as 5, 4, and 3 mile runs leading up to
tomorrow. I hope I did that right.

Last September I felt a little panicky as I approached the Queens half marathon, and the Queens half turned out to be just as scary as one could imagine. Hot, Humid, Hilly.

I walked at least a mile straight.

I couldn't contemplate why I would ever want to run a full marathon after that.
Somehow that feeling faded.

I wasn't the only one who had a bad run. It was a rough day, and despite our strengths and training we are human and subject to the elements. At least, most of us are.

So here I am on the eve of my second half marathon, optimistic, excited, and remembering that anything can happen, and I can only do my best.

Here's hoping my best is at least 10- 15 minutes better than Queens.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ask the Coach: The Couple That Runs Together Stays Together...right?

Q: I've been a runner for a little while and my partner has expressed interest in joining me on some of my runs. Is this a good idea? I thought I could give some pointers since I'm a veteran runner. Thoughts?

A: I'm not a life coach or a therapist or anything but I feel pretty comfortable answering this question and others that relate to it since I have experienced this situation first-hand. Let me be clear: my partner is loving and wonderful and patient and kind and I'm not quite sure how he puts up with me at times. I love him very much and enjoy his company. We are both very athletic people with a love for all things active and outdoors. He is actually running his first marathon this Fall-hooray! Lucky him, right??, to have an excellent coach and trainer at his disposal...mmm hmmm...

I will probably not ever again in my life run another step with him. We've tried, God knoooows we've tried, but that just 'ain't gonna happen, folks. He's 6'2", I'm 5'9". My torso is as long as his and his legs go up to my ribs. I take 1.5 steps for every 1 of his. I have run 7 marathons, he's run mostly with the military on forced "humps." We are oil and water when it comes to running styles, too. I am a pace person. That is, I run a very consistent pace every single mile, with the exception of the last few miles when I try like hell to speed up a little bit. He, on the other hand, speeds up to pass the next person in front of him and then slows back down. He spots another person, speeds up to pass and then slows back down. He thinks I'm half-stepping him, I think he's holding back to amuse and patronize me.

The point is that we are excellent life partners, but lousy running buddies. We bicker about where to turn as we head to the Park, what route we should take, how far we should go, what exercises he's not doing to adequately maintain his running strength, our speed, our splits, and on and on and on and's just not for us. By the end of the run, we are snippy with one another and neither of us has had a very mentally or physically fulfilling workout. I envy the couples I see, jogging along in the Park together while discussing their dinner plans for later that evening. But I've come to grips with the fact that we are not that couple and never will be.

Give it a go, but be aware of the signs that you and your partner may not be "running-buddy compatible." If you find yourself compromising the majority of your runs in order to stay with your partner, be it going too slow or too fast, you may consider finding a partner who runs more at your pace. If you find that you or your partner puts on the I.K.E. (I Know Everything) Coach hat, maybe it's time to find a group to run with so as to avoid being "that guy" on every run. If your partner is constantly bombarding you with questions about how he/she should be training and you'd prefer a quieter run, go out by yourself more often. If you find yourself resenting your partner for going slower/faster, turning too late/too soon, speeding up and slowing down when it doesn't exactly suit your fancy, or if you are just plain nasty to one another during runs, please, for the health of your own relationship, seek out a different running partner.

If you are the couple that runs harmoniously in the Park, on the River and over the Bridges together, just know that I am jealous. I am jealous, but I am not insane. So, good for you and keep going and you're so lucky!, but I am not going to keep on trying to be you. I am going to run by myself, with a friend or in a group--far, far away from my amazing, attractive, selfless partner. I will meet him at the end with a Gatorade and a high-five.

Just because you aren't perfect running partners doesn't mean you aren't perfect life partners.

Run hard, friends! See you in Brooklyn (I'll be at Cortelyou Road-left side, cheering you on!)

Coach Abby

Friday, May 22, 2009

Run For Charity - Get A Spot in the Marathon

Want to run the 2009 NYC Marathon, but you didn't get your nine races in before the deadline?
Want to rescue a dog, but your partner is allergic?
Why don't you combine your love of running with your love of animals and sign up with Team Animal League? Organized by North Shore Animal League America, this is a great way to help out an amazing organization which is dedicated to saving animals and finding them good homes. If you don't have a spot in the marathon you can put your feet to good use by raising money and awareness while also accomplishing your own personal goals.
Want to help out but already have a spot in the race? Fortunately for you you can still register with Team Animal League if you pledge to raise $1500.00.

Photo taken from TAL website.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mantras II

Awhile back I did a post asking runner friends to list their "mantra", a few words or a phrase that helped motivate them before, during or after a run. Most of the responses were phrases and, while motivational, were probably not things those runners actually say to themselves in the midst of a long, hard run. At mile 20 my mind can barely string two words together let alone a phrase! In 2007 I had this great mantra ready, and I couldn't wait for the later half of the marathon to use it. Between miles 21 - 26.2 that great mantra turned into one word: "Down". That's all I could say to myself -- "down, down, down, down" -- to keep my feet hitting the ground and therefore, continue forward motion.

Anna's comment on "Pasadena Pain" reminded me of how personal and important mantras are, and how one or a few words can help you get through a tough run, can even change the condition of your body. I've been struggling with lower back pain and, instead of talking about it constantly, I say something similar to Anna and tell myself my body is healthy -- and the pain subsides. Now, please don't take this as permission to ignore pain. (I go to physical therapy for a specific lower back issue.) If you need to go see a doctor, go see a doctor. But, sometimes those little pains we get when we run are because we're running, which doesn't always feel good. And, sometimes, a few positive words can get us through that long 9 miler.

So, maybe we can try this mantra sharing one more time. If you've got a word or words you say to yourself to help you keep moving go ahead and leave them in the "comments" section. Mine lately is "I'm fast and healthy".

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pasadena Pain

I'm in to rhyme apparently.

I've been in California this past week on a sort of Business/Pleasure trip so it has made it difficult to keep to my running schedule (4-5 days a week). Additionally, having been extremely busy before I left has really sort of thrown off my training. It would not be so bad if I wasn't prematurely training for a half-marathon (Brooklyn) while easing into my marathon training.

I say prematurely because I had been off a regular running routine and was just getting back into a regular running schedule when my girlfriend and I decided to sign up for the Brooklyn Half Marathon. We debated whether or not it was too early, and after a brief motivational call with a running girl I know, decided why not.

So last week, I ran 10 miles as my long run. We had done a 7 mile run the week before which turned into an 8 mile for lack of planning. So, in a way, the progression was okay. The 10 miler was good. Girlfriend was sick so I ran the first 6 miles by myself and she joined me for the last 4 which was an amazing energy booster. Well, she and the gel I had when I picked her up. So that went okay, and I felt good about heading towards this half-marathon.

So this week I am out at my brother's house in Pasadena. I've been eating poorly, sleeping poorly and not quite staying on schedule. I decided I was going to do my 9 mile long run on Saturday at about 4pm, despite having been out the night before, despite preferring to run in the mornings, despite the high heat.

I started out slow, something that is sometimes difficult, but since I don't do any pre-run stretching it's very important. Early into my run my brother passed me in the van and told me my 6 year old nephew wanted me to come see him skate at a nearby park that was along my route. I found I was feeling discomfort in my knees pretty early in the run. My knees have been pretty good lately. But last year was a different story.

Last year as my girlfriend and I began easing our way towards our first Marathon, the 2009 NYC Marathon, and decided we would take a stab at the half marathon and ran the Queens half in September of last year. As we ramped up our mileage for that race, I ended up injuring my knee. An injury that we later decided was my IT band. A common running injury from not stretching enough and adding too many miles too fast.

So as I am beginning my 9 miles, these fears start to arrive, that I am not going to finish, that I will have to take time off again, that this half is too soon, and I am adding mileage too fast. I don't want that feeling I had last year. The feeling that I've blown a tire, that I can barely walk let alone run. So while I am feeling this pain in the same knee (right) I get a different pain in my left knee, I try to float my legs, try not to let them hit too hard. The pain floats in and out.

At two miles I stopped to see my brother and my nephew at the skate park. I take this time to stretch, I am already worried I won't be able to finish. I begin to negotiate with myself, 'why not make this a 4 mile run, and do the 9 tomorrow?' 'No, we can do this, tomorrow has no guarantees.' I get back on the road, I am glad that I have told people I will be back around 6, I am glad that my brother knows the basic route I am taking. I am hopeful that none of that will matter. That I will finish my run running, not limping.

It's about 3 miles to the Rose Bowl, which I've never been to, then 3 miles around and a little more than 3 miles back. As I get towards the Rose Bowl, I get a little confused from the map I had in my head. The confusion doesn't help, but I push through. The voices are there, 'if you feel pain, stop', 'don;t push too hard', 'time to walk'. But I can't stop, I keep going. The pain continues to cycle in and out.

Around mile 6 I am trying to figure out why the run is so hard. I don't have a lot of push, I am trying to keep up with my run, not control it. A little later I realize that while I have been sipping water at every mile, I never ate a gel, I don't have a gel, I am not prepared for this run. It's a hard run but it looks like I might make it.

It's over an hour later and I see that my brother and nephew are still at the park. I run up but I still have a run to finish and I feel like if I stop it will be over, my knee will give up, the van will carry me home. I see they are packing up, and I get back on the road, with no real stop, just some running in place. I have about a mile left and I see my brother has pulled over. He tells me that my nephew wants to skate home with me. And while I have to be conscious of him as I run and he skates along a busy street, have to keep a pace that is neither faster or slower than him, I am thankful for the company, I am glad for the distraction. And the pain fades away.

After the run I don't feel as sore, I stretch, and I think 'I am going to make it.'

I am going to make Brooklyn and I am going to make NYC.

I am going to finish my first marathon.

Friday, May 15, 2009

What, me worry?

So, the big ol' Brooklyn Half is coming up at the end of May. Since I've never run a race during marathon training outside Manhattan it's been one of my goals to do just that. Last year I couldn't pull it together to get to another borough as the disc injury prevented me from running until fairly late in the season. This year I have no excuse. Transportation is being taken care of so I can't use that; my back feels ok; and lots of friends are running, which is always motivation for me to do things I'm typically too lazy to do. The only problem is my long runs haven't been very long at all. The most I've done is a 15k and that was, what, seven weeks ago? To be fair I did run nine miles two weeks back, did a six miler while on vacation, and plan to run the 10K Healthy Kidney race tomorrow. That, combined with my regular runs and speed work class, should be enough. Not one to err on the side of caution, but definitely one to stress until after the race when I discover I have indeed survived, I will be at the Brooklyn Half. Hopefully in new Asics.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ask the Coach (cough...cough...sniff)

Ah, Spring! Those lovely sun-filled morning runs with the cool air breezing by your bare arms (finally-tank tops and shorts weather!). I just love this time of year for running. I think my Tuesday Morning Maniacs appreciated it, too, since they had some half-mile repeats in the Park at 6:30am this week. Those are just not fun once the humidity bears down on all of us in July. Something to look forward to...

...I digress. I was thinking about how much I love Spring and everything that goes along with it except for when all of my clients and runners get sick and bring their germs to our workouts to share with everyone else, namely ME. So, here's the question I get all the time:

Q. Should I run/workout when I'm sick?

A. Eh, if you feel up to it. A good rule of thumb for the common cold/flu is: If your symptoms have settled in the neck area or above and you feel up to it go ahead and take a nice, leisurely jog. Nothing crazy, but moving around might actually help make you feel better. Generally strength training isn't high on the list of priorities because anaerobic exercise requires so much more power and your body usually just doesn't have it to give when you're under the weather. If you're too pooped to make it through a full day of work, let alone more than a mile of running, don't force yourself. Here's the skinny on why you're so very tired when you are sick:

A virus attacks your immune system (fight like the dickens, little white blood cells, FIGHT!) and your body is working to battle off what you've got and build up an immunity to ever getting it again. This is precisely why your core temperature can be elevated. You have a fever and, no, cowbell won't help. However, rest will help. Your body cannot be expected to function at 100% strength and endurance levels when there is a war within. When in doubt, it's a good idea to give those little soldiers a rest and let your DVR do some work.

When to absolutely not run, workout or come in contact with humans other than your significant other (they are obliged to feed you during your time of peril) or roommate (not so much obliged to provide food as they are just in the line of fire):

-You have a significant fever (usually over 99 degrees) which may or may not be accompanied by the chills
-You haven't been able to keep regular amounts of food down
-You have problems with one end or another (you know what I'm talking about)
-You're too dizzy, short of breath, or nauseated to complete everyday activities
-Your doctor tells you to rest
-You are projectile coughing, sneezing or anything else-there are people out there who don't want to get what ever you got
-You are too tired to get off the couch and turn off the reruns of "90210" (which we can all agree is awesomely bad, but still BAD)

When in doubt, rest. I promise you won't lose all of the training you've done up until the H1N1 Virus took hold of your body. It may take you a week or so after being sick to feel normal during your workouts but give yourself a break and remember that viruses last a whoooooole lot longer when you push too far too soon.

Run hard, friends!!

Coach Abby

Saturday, May 09, 2009


Last night my friend threw herself a grad school graduation party, and while I had every intention of going to see and congratulate her, I fell asleep at 9:30 and missed it. Clearly I needed the sleep -- didn't wake up until after 8:30 this morning -- but it was an annoying reminder that I can't always have everything I want. I want to do speedwork, meet friends for a run (often) or drinks (once or twice a week), cross-train, eat well but have some treats too, and wake up ready for a long run on Saturday mornings. Oh, right, and go to work Monday-Friday. Is that so much to ask?

I guess so. But I'm insanely lucky that I do have most of that, most of the time. For now I'm blessed with (relative) youth and the lack of any real adult responsibilities -- you know, kids -- plus a supportive partner who almost always wants the same things and will wake up on those Saturdays with me. I'm lucky that I can show up for 8 miles of Prospect Park and only really be worried about the crushing humidity and getting up that stupid hill (twice! ha HA!). And now I'm off to another friend's party, this time in the afternoon. I just hope I can stay awake through it ... a nap is sounding awfully good right now ...

Friday, May 08, 2009

Why Do I Run (poem)


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Astoria Rain

So here is how I thought it would go.

One day I would get up and run 26 miles, um point something.

But then I found out that is not how it works. Apparently, before you can run 26+ miles you have to run 20 miles, and before that 18 miles, and 15 and 13.1 and so on and so on. Until one day months before you ever run 26 something miles, you find yourself running 4 miles in the rain a little after midnight just so you can run your pre-training training run.

Running after midnight isn't the worst. It's exciting in a way. In the way that it makes you feel like you are doing something wonderful, dangerous and super human. Also in the way that makes you think, 'I may not be ready to run a marathon yet, but if I can run in this crap then how bad can that 26 miler be?'

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Ask the Coach: So Many Workouts, So Little Time

Whether you are new or old to running (I am old, and I am okay with that) you may be asking yourself this question:

Q. How much should I be running and where does my cross training fit in?

A. By now, many of you have heard of the "Ultra-Marathon Man," Dean Karnazes, who claims that he is simply genetically gifted enough to run 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days. What you might not get from that little sound bite is that he has a team of doctors that follow him every step of the way and that he trains every single day to build and maintain the strength to have his body perform at that level of activity. He, like Lance Armstrong and other fierce endurance athletes, has a genetically exceptional VO2 capacity and is just plain lucky that his body puts up with that kind of pounding. I promise you that this won't be the case forever. I know this because he is not Superman nor is he Wolverine, for that matter.

I tell you about Dean not to diminish his accomplishments or to discourage you from running great distances, rather to make a point. Running is not your job; it is a hobby. Most runners need not run more than 4 days a week. One tempo run, one speed/hill day, one moderate run, one long run. This is an age-old formula that is tried and true. If you are pressed for time and can only fit three days in, alternate the speed/hill day and tempo run every other week and keep your moderate run and long run every single week.

Your cross training (ie. lifting, yoga, biking, swimming) can be done on the same day as your moderate run or your tempo run or on an off day. You need not push your body further (provided you are doing a decent amount of distance or a challenging speed/hill workout) on the other days. You'll want to run first and cross train second on the days that you double-up your workout.

You will not gain anything by overtraining except a new relationship with your orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist. Don't get me wrong, I adore my PT but I'd really prefer not to see him during training season.

A note about weekly mileage: Mileage is slowly built over time in conjunction with a comprehensive strength training program. If you are strong, you can go for greater distances. That strength is built through weight-bearing exercise, not longer runs. Longer runs build cardiovascular endurance, not stronger legs. Strong muscles and a strong cardiovascular system are both complimentary and necessary in running.

So, next time you're considering following a running schedule that suggests you run 6 days a week to train for a marathon or any other race (I've seen them and couldn't believe my eyes!!), remind yourself that unless you have a coach, physical therapist, massage therapist, pilates instructor and nutritionist on retainer and you are running for money, IT'S JUST A HOBBY.

Run smart and run strong, friends.

Coach Abby

P.S. If you'd like me to tailor a running program to your needs, please feel free to leave a note in the "Comment" section of this blog and I'll get back to you.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

The Battle of Brooklyn

I figured I'd write my first post here after this week's long run, and here I am, still covered in salt (97% humidity? Is that really necessary?) and proud of myself for another tough trip to Brooklyn. 

My husband Andy and I are training for our fourth Brooklyn 1/2 Marathon, so we've been trying to get in a few trips to Prospect Park, home of my favorite hill, which I'm sure has a real name but which I call the Battle of Brooklyn. It is a CLIMB, and during this particular 9-miler it comes at mile 8. Which is not usually how I roll -- I like the hills low and early, thank you -- but I'm trying to be tougher. 

My brain was making a lot of noise this morning, telling me I was going to get overheated, that the Brooklyn Bridge was too long, the Battle was going to kick my ass, that the 1/2 marathon wasn't worth this, oh and also who the hell do I think I am for signing up for the NYC full marathon again this year? Clearly I needed to walk to the nearest subway station and go home.

It was a good day, though -- one of those days when your brain gets turned back around and you actually do get a little tougher. And it was the silliest thing -- a few minutes into the park, I noticed a guy walking up ahead and realized it was the actor who played Marlo on The Wire. So exciting! Hey, Andy, it's Marlo! He looks just like he did on the show! Should we say something? Nah ...

But after that, I got a little second wind. My brain started thinking about how well I was doing, what a good, steady pace I was keeping. How I needed to be patient -- the Battle was up ahead, but look at all these nice trees and other people in the meantime. And when the Battle came, my breathing got really heavy (97% humidity!!), but my thoughts were good. Keep going. Get angry. Get over. Yeah, it'd be nice to stop, but I'm not going to. I'm not stopping.

I made it over, I got through the last half-mile, I stretched and did my leg lifts (seriously, do not ignore Coach Abby), and we went to brunch at Dizzy's (yay, giant bowl of yogurt, granola, and fruit). So thanks, Marlow, I really did love you on that show! And though I'm not sure I'll ever be that tough, it's a great feeling to make it over another hill.